(Oshawa) – The classic Leafs vs. Leafs –The Blue and White game took to the road this year, wowing more than 5,000 fans in Oshawa’s General Motors Centre on Sunday afternoon.
From the opening face-off, Mats Sundin against Kyle Wellwood, a high tempo-ed game entertained the fans. Team White opened the scoring after a miscommunication between Andrew Raycroft and Jay Harrison left a gaping net open for Kyle Wellwood.
Team Blue rallied back in a big way though with two goals in the first period. Alex Steen placed a pretty backhander in under the crossbar after a great set up from Matt Stajan, and Jason Blake potted his first in a Maple Leaf sweater when Toskala lost the puck to Nik Antropov who then passed it out to Stajan in front. Stajan’s shot sat on the goal line for Blake who tapped it in.
From then on Team Blue seemed to pick up momentum and dominated the remainder of the game. Simon Gamache scored on a tricky backhand in tight, and Nik Antropov potted two tipped goals from in front of the net.
Despite the lopsided score both teams were happy to be out on the ice in front of the fans again and declared it a successful warm-up for the upcoming pre-season games.
Paul Maurice was impressed with the performance of several players but did say that when he had made up the rosters a week ago that he thought it would have been a more balanced game. He added that it was the impressive play of Stajan and Steen that propelled the blue squad to victory.
Gamache also impressed with his linemates – Stajan and Steen – and the three goals the line contributed.
“They were terrific,” said Gamache. “I thought we played well together and they’re intense and skate well. They play simple and they make good passes so we had a good line tonight.”
There was much talk about Jason Blake having a chance to play with Mats Sundin, especially since Antropov’s second goal was set up by the two of them. With lots of games and training camp to go Maurice reminded all that there were many other combinations to try out and not to declare them as the top line yet.
“There were 132 line combinations in the first 28 games last year,” said Maurice with a smile, warning reporters not to get carried away with the headlines yet.
Jason Blake was very complimentary of Antropov and especially Sundin after one game with them though.
“Sundin’s so big and strong and he’s got every quality you want in a player. He’s got a good shot, good hands and he’s fast,” said Blake. “That definitely helps out his linemates.”
Antropov was just as thankful to playing on the line.
“First of all I have to keep up behind Sundin, but (Blake) has a nice set of skills and he’s really shifty in the corners so I just have to go in front of the net or get in the slot,” said Antropov.
The sold out arena didn’t want to go home at the end of the game so a large group waited for a glimpse of the players as they left the building.
Proceeds from the game raised $50,000 for the Leafs Fund and Ronald McDonald House Charities.